When I was a kid, one of the congregations my family attended had a fairly small sanctuary. We sat close to the back, but, just a couple of pews down and to our left, there was an older man who sat at the end of a pew, right under a tall stained-glass window. He was a friendly guy, but he was also a life-long bachelor, so he was just about always by himself. And whenever the pastor began his sermon, the man would lean over against the end of the pew and promptly go to sleep.
So, we’ve arrived at the end of the book, and, since the final chapter is entitled “Living the Mystery”, it would be easy to think that Father Andrew would wind things up with some practical pointers about how to incorporate into our lives all of the stuff in the previous 131 pages. However, that’s not what happens: in the first few pages of the chapter there is a helpful review of much of the ground that has been covered, but then Father Andrew uses that review as a springboard to revisit the issue with which he begins the book: the division, the separation that we all experience in ourselves.
This is a long chapter, but do your best to make it all the way through it, because it contains some of the best material in the book. For example, Father Andrew talks, at length, about allegory, and that is an extremely important discussion. Allegory is not the only way to approach Holy Scripture; however, it is the way that Holy Scripture is approached in the hymnography of the Church and in the writings of the Holy Fathers. So, if we are going to be able to understand those resources and enter fully into the life of the Church, then we will need to be familiar with allegory and how it works.
This time around, our Roundtable Question is very Protestant: “Is baptism required for salvation in heaven, or can repentance be enough?” It’s a Protestant question because until the 16th century, it never occurred to anyone that baptism and repentance and salvation were somehow separate. The Church has always taught that, through the water of baptism, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit forgive our sins and promise to love us forever.
With this chapter, “Tradition and the Tacit”, we arrive at the very heart of Father Andrew’s book, and so the problem is not going to be figuring out how this applies to our life in the Church—the problem is going to be addressing the many, many wonderful insights that he includes in this chapter. So, what we will do is save most of those insights for our discussion during the Pascha Book Study (though we will touch on a few at the conclusion of this week’s edition of the Notes), and we will, instead, provide an outline of the chapter.
This week we’re reading the chapter entitled “Science and Mystery”, and it’s in this section of the book that Father Andrew begins to talk about things in which we are really interested: the Christian life, the role of tradition, the connection between how we live and how we perceive reality. In the first several pages of the chapter, Father Andrew continues to talk about the difference between theology and the sciences, and he considers whether theology should adopt any of the methodology of the sciences. In this discussion, he backtracks a bit, and he considers the views of two highly influential 20th century Protestant theologians, Karl Barth and T.F. Torrance.
This week’s chapter is called The Legacy of the Enlightenment, and this is, most likely, the section of the book that is going to frustrate the most people because, in this chapter, Father Andrew is talking about the history of several ideas and concepts, and those ideas and concepts just don’t appear to have a whole lot of anything to do with our lives or with the Church.
As always, be sure and look up the words that you don’t know; don’t guess. Father Andrew sweated those words, so we need to make sure we understand exactly what he’s saying. Speaking of that topic, in the first chapter, Disassociation of Sensibility, Father Andrew lays out the basic problem that he wants to address: the gap between our hearts and our minds.
So, mindfulness is apparently, once again, a thing. I wasn’t aware that it had made a comeback until last month when I saw a story promoting a network news anchor’s books on the subject. But the comeback is a big one: Google, Aetna, and Goldman Sachs have all had mindfulness programs for a while—in fact, several sources report that mindfulness training is now a billion dollar industry. That means this method is going to eventually filter down to the level of school districts and municipalities and hospitals and big-box retailers, and that, for the next decade or so, any group that needs to fill up a few hours with some sort of ‘professional/personal development’ will be taught how this technique can help them achieve “calm, focus, and happiness.”
So, the first thing you need to do in order to get the most of our Great Lent Reading Project is to buy the book. That may seem fairly obvious, but, hey, you’d be surprised how many people attend the Pascha Book Study without having read any of the material—and we always love to have folks participate whether they’ve actually read the book or not, but you really do get a whole lot more out of the experience if you have done your best to get through the book.